Mural with local history tie-in approved for Charleston hotel project | business

When the developers of a new hotel planned in downtown Charleston proposed having a mural painted on the side of the property’s parking garage, the city’s architecture board made a request: design it so it has a local connection.

Charleston artist David Boatwright painted the 10-foot mural at the corner of Rutledge and Cannon streets, where Hominy Grill used to operate. File/Staff

So, the project turned to Charleston artist David Boatwright who’s made many of the city’s most recognizable murals. He painted the “Renoir Reduxmural off Queen Street featuring members of Charleston’s food scene, another on the GrowFood Carolina warehouse on Morrison Drive and the image on the side of the since-closed Hominy Grill restaurant on Rutledge Avenue.

This hotel assignment, Boatwright said, will be his largest to date. It’s also in a highly visible spot. The 175-room aloft lodging is to be built on a site on Cannon Street, near the base of the Ashley River Bridge† The parking garage that will feature the mural will be directly behind the hotel.

Boatwright said he thought a lot about where the site is when he was coming up with a design. First, he said, he thought about whether it would be a nod to the Ashley River bike and pedestrian bridge that will be built in that area.

He also started thinking about the Septima B. Clark Expressway, aka the Crosstown. Constructed in the 1960s, the road project bisected Black neighborhoods and displaced residents.

“It’s difficult to communicate a complicated situation like that with a painting,” Boatwright said.

To represent the homes that were torn down to build the Crosstown, his design depicts Charleston single houses in the background. In the foreground are five different images of Clark, the late Charleston educator and civil rights leader. The expressway was officially renamed for Clark in 2010, some 23 years after she died.

In Boatwright’s current mural design, the images show her at different points of her life, starting in her teens and extending into her later life.

194 Cannon Aloft Hotel rendering (copy)

Design plans for 194 Cannon St. in Charleston include a 175-room Aloft hotel and an adjacent parking garage that will feature a mural by local artist David Boatwright. Rendering/LS3P

The design still needed something else, he said, so he went to Charleston’s poet laureate, Marcus Amakerwho then came up with the phrase Boatwright plans to use on the mural: “Forward ever, backward never.”

Some elements of the mural could change, Boatwright said, but those will likely be smaller tweaks. On March 23, the Board of Architectural Review voted to approve the design. Board members praised the very clear local tie-in. Previous designs had been more “corporate” and generic, board members said.

David Boatwright (copy)

Charleston artist David Boatwright stands in front of a mural he painted in the courtyard of a home in Goose Creek. File/Provided

Designs for the hotel building and parking structure got final approval from the BAR in August. The plans were heavily scrutinized after the first version of the design submitted in June 2020 received a slew of negative public comments. By the time the board was granting final approval, they commended how much the look of the project had evolved.

Plans for the garage that will be decorated with Boatwright’s mural also show retail space and new sidewalks.

It could still be quite awhile before commuters and other passersby can take in this proposed piece of public art. The developers of the hotel haven’t announced when they will start construction.

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